Every writer has two or three go-to sources, people who are famous enough for readers to recognize their name, witty enough so they can hold forth on anything and everything, and kind enough to always take your call. Nora Ephron was one of those for me.
Whenever I'd phone, our conversation would always assume the following structure: I'd thank her for making time for me. She'd go, "Pfffffttttttt," like she had nothing better to do. Then I'd ask her questions regarding the subject of whatever story I was writing. Then, just when I was about to hang up and leave her to her day, she'd share a sizzling piece of gossip -- with famous names and everything -- followed by a little bit trash-talking, the glorious kind, the kind that comes out of nowhere and startles you with its blunt incisiveness and makes you laugh out loud.
In between all this -- and they were never long calls, just very action-packed -- she would talk about food: where she'd just eaten, how she preferred to prepare a dish and so on. Anyone who read any of her essay collections -- Scribble, Scribble, Crazy Salad, Wallflower at the Orgy -- knew how interested she was in cooking; Heartburn, her roman a clef about her marriage to Carl Bernstein, was filled with chatty instructions on how to make, say, Lillian Hellman's pot roast or potatoes Anna. She once said that her childhood dream was to be locked up in a bakery. More »